Book Review: The Irrational Atheist: Dissecting the Unholy Trinity of
Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens by Vox Day
Vox Day (pen name for Theodore Beale) has written a new book The Irrational Atheist, which takes on authors Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion), Sam Harris (The End of Faith) and Christopher Hitchens (God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything). Day, a gaming programmer and member of Mensa, is simply brilliant in his analysis of the writings of the new atheists. For the most part, Vox Day sticks to dissecting the logic and sources atheists use to support their new "theology." However, on occasion, he lashes out with some humorous personal attacks. One gets the impression Day gets extremely frustrated with the antics of Dawkins, Harris, and Hitchens and just wants to slap them upside the head to knock some sense in there. There are a few occasions where Day goes way over the top, so keep that in mind as you are reading. Day's purpose in writing The Irrational Atheist is:
"...I am confident that I will convince you that this trio of New Atheists, this Unholy Trinity, are a collection of faux-intellectual frauds utilizing pseudo-scientific sleight of hand in order to falsely claim that religious faith is inherently dangerous and has no place in the modern world."
There is no evidence or arguments for God's existence in the book, so it is "safe" for atheists to read without feeling being preached at. However, atheists will find no comfort in Day's writing, as he smashes some common atheists' myths. Here are some of the highlights:
- Atheists claim that atheists make up a smaller percent of prison populations that their theists counterparts. However, surveys indicate that those who profess no religion are four times more likely to be incarcerated than their Christian counterparts. (Page 20)
- Religion hinders scientific progress. It turns out that one of the most religious countries (the United States) produces 28.7% more scientific output per capita than the most atheistic one (France). (Pages 58-59)
- Most wars are the result of religious conflict. (Pages79-111) See Religion and War: Are Most Wars the Result of Religious Belief?
- Cities in blue (Democratic) states are safer than cities in red (Republican) states. It actually turns out that the safest cities might be in blue states, but those cities are within red counties. Likewise, the most dangerous cities are within red states, but the counties that those cities are within are blue. Harris's argument is completely wrong. (Pages 121-127)
- Only religious people are responsible for destruction of art and religious architecture. Day points out that Dawkins's argument has failed to point out the 41,000 churches destroyed the Soviet atheists, and thousands of Buddhist temples destroyed in Tibet, North Korea, and Vietnam, as they attempted to persecute religious belief out of existence. (Pages 143-144)
- Hitler was a Christian. Although Adolf Hitler made Christian-like statements when attempting to get elected to political office, once installed, he hated Christianity, and planned to replace it with a religion based upon racial eugenics. (Pages 209-214)
- The Spanish Inquisition was an unprovoked example of religious excess.
In reality, Day gives a probable reason:
"While historians such as Henry Kamen pronounce themselves baffled as to what could have provoked the Spanish crown, the most likely impetus was that on July 28, three months before Ferdinandís decision to appoint the two inquisitors, a Turkish fleet led by Gedik Ahmed Pasha attacked the Aragonese city of Otranto. Otranto fell on August 11 and more than half of the cityís 20,000 people were slaughtered during the sack of the city. The archbishop was killed in the cathedral, and the garrison commander was killed by being sawed in half alive, as was a bishop named Stephen Pendinelli. But the most infamous event was when the captured men of Otranto were given the choice to convert to Islam or die; 800 of them held to their Christian faith and were beheaded en masse at a place now known as the Hill of the Martyrs. The Turkish fleet then went on to attack the cities of Vieste, Lecce, Taranto, and Brindisi, and destroyed the great library at the Monastero di San Nicholas di Casole, before returning to Ottoman territory in November." (Pages 214-220)
- Atheists would never commit atrocities. In a chapter entitled, "The Red Hand of Atheism," Day shows that atheist regimes of the 20th century have committed far worse atrocities than all religious atrocities combined. According to Day, "...the average atheist crime against humanity is 18.3 million percent worse than the very worst depredation committed by Christians, even though atheists have had less than one-twentieth the number of opportunities with which to commit them." The unholy trinity's attempt explain away the murderous acts of atheists shows the logical errors and double standard for those within their own camps. (Pages 233-250)
One of Day's most interesting "twists" is to turn the tables on atheists and blame the potential destruction of mankind on atheistic science. Although the atheists say that religion is a threat to humanity's existence, it is this past century's science that has provided the means by which the human race could be completely destroyed. So what religion has been unable to accomplish in several thousand years of conflict, modern science could accomplish in mere hours. Atheists decry blaming science when the application of science is done for evil purposes. However, no such deflection is ever given for theists who misapply theology as they commit evil in the name of their religion. The double standard is quite striking! Day's point is not to blame science for the evils committed in the use of its technology, but to show the illogical argument of atheists who blame wacko "followers" of a religion for evil they commit, despite the fact that those acts are specifically decried in those religious teachings (pages 43-60).
Sam Harris use the "no true Scotsman" logical fallacy in trying to explain away the tens of millions of killings done by 20th century atheists. The argument goes something like this:
- Harris: Atheists donít kill people because they have no good reason to do so.
- Response: Stalin and Mao were atheists and they killed millions of people.
- Harris: Then Stalin and Mao were No True Atheists. (Pages 127-133)
Regarding the design of the universe, Dawkins is quoted as saying, "A God capable of calculating the Goldilocks values for the six numbers would have to be at least as improbable as the finely tuned combination of numbers itself." However, the six numbers have been calculated by physicist Martin Rees, who seems to exist despite the improbability! (Page 153)
Dawkins's claim that the designer must be more complex than its design directly contradicts his own explanation for the anthropic principle (the "apparent" design of the universe). Dawkins says that the multiverse theory (which is backed by zero evidence) could explain the origin of the universe. However, according to his own logic, this multiverse as designer must be more complex than the universes it creates, which makes the multiverse infinitely more improbable than our own improbable universe. Great use of logic Dawkins! (Pages 156-159)
In a rather humorous section, Day quotes Christopher Hitchens saying, "what can be asserted without evidence can also be dismissed without evidence." Day takes him quite literally, and list 51 assertions that Hitchens fails to support in any way. According to Hitchens's own logic, all those claims should be dismissed without evidence, which Day does (Pages 167-171).
Daniel Dennett, left out of the "unholy trinity," because you couldn't have a trinity of four, is, nonetheless, not left out of Day's book. Dennett believes in "moral democracy," in which the majority decides what is moral or immoral. Day, points out the majority elected both Adolf Hitler in Germany and Hamas in Palestine, pointing out that moral democracy is no guarantee that the majority will, in fact, be moral (Page 188-189).
In The Irrational Atheist, Day reserves an entire chapter, "Occam's Chainsaw," to examining specific logical fallacies committed by the "unholy trinity." These fallacies include argument from authority, lack of evidence, hallucination, temporal advantage, fiction, unfairness of hell, God's character, moral evolution, the golden rule, and superior morals (Pages 251-268).
The Irrational Atheist is excellent at examining the arguments of atheists Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, and Daniel Dennett showing where those arguments are contradicted by the facts of logic. Vox Day's style is engaging, although he resorts to occasional ad hominem attacks. Still, the book is one of the best at dissecting the arguments of the "new atheists."
- Book Review: God's Undertaker: Has Science Buried God?
- Book Review: Greater Than You Think: A Theologian Answers the Atheists About God
- God, Science, and Reason: Finding the Light of God Amidst the Darkness of Atheism and Dogmatism Book Review
Last Modified April 14, 2008